Whether you’re planning a week-long family vacation or sending your child off to summer camp, preparing for travel with a child who has diabetes takes a little more planning and preparation. Dr. Natinder Saini, pediatric endocrinologist at Akron Children’s Hospital Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, says with the proper preparation, the enjoyment offered by the final destination should outweigh any issues diabetes presents.
Dr. Saini suggests the following tips when traveling with a child with diabetes:
- Review all home medical supplies (injections, insulin pumps, glucose sensors, insulin meds, glucose meters) and request refills prior to the trip.
- Confirm all medications (insulin, glucagon) have original prescription labels on them.
- Keep insulin and diabetes medications in a cooler but don’t store them directly on ice or a gel pack.
- Heat can damage blood sugar monitors, test strips, insulin pumps and other diabetes equipment. Don’t leave them in a hot car, by a pool, in direct sunlight or on the beach.
Before departing, contact your child’s diabetes provider and request:
- Refills for necessary supplies. This includes items needed in times of pump or sensor failures.
- Medical documentation if the child is attending camp or a field trip.
- A travel letter for TSA if you are flying. For more information on air travel with a medical condition, visit tsa.gov.
Plan ahead by filling out a TSA notification card to hand over to the agent indicating a traveler in your party has a medical condition. If you have questions, TSA Cares is a helpline that assists travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Call 72 hours before traveling at 1-855-787-2227.
Plan to arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight if you’re traveling domestically and 3 hours for international locations. If driving, make sure to have stops scheduled around mealtimes or every few hours as needed to safely manage injections, pump or sensors during long trips.
“People with diabetes are exempt from the 3.4 oz. liquid rule for medicines, fast-acting carbs like juice, and gel packs to keep insulin cool,” said Dr. Saini. “A continuous glucose monitor (CGM), or insulin pump could be damaged going through the X-ray machine. You don’t have to disconnect from either; ask for a hand inspection instead.”
Insulin should never be packed in a checked bag because it could be affected by severe pressure and temperature changes. When going through airport security, pack medications in a separate, clear sealable bag.
“Keep a quick-acting source of glucose and a snack handy to treat low blood glucose and don’t forget the glucagon,” said Dr. Saini.
If you’re traveling across time zones, it’s a good idea to set medication reminders via an alarm or notification on your phone.
“Familiarize yourself with the local medical clinics and pharmacies at your destination,” said Dr. Saini. “This includes access to Bluetooth and the internet if you’re using a phone to transmit data from a CGM or insulin pump.”
Regardless of whether kids are traveling with family or alone, they should wear a medical ID bracelet that remains visible during travel. Once you arrive at your destination, your child’s blood sugar may be out of target range at first.
“Their body should adjust in a few days,” said Dr. Saini. “Have them check their blood sugar often and treat highs or lows as instructed by your doctor or diabetes educator.”
If your child is going to be more active than usual, have them check their blood sugar before and after activity and adjust food, activity and insulin as needed.
“Variable temperatures can change how your body uses insulin,” said Dr. Saini. “They may need to test their blood sugar more often and adjust their insulin dose and what they eat and drink.”
For more tips on managing diabetes during hot weather, visit cdc.gov. For additional information on medications and supplies permitted on a plane, visit diabetes.org.